The closing of an 80-year-old music store in south Winnipeg opened a door for Darren Sawchuk. The longtime Winnipeg criminal lawyer with a newfound passion for old LPs just happened to be looking for a venue for a new music store.
Sawchuk opened Vinyl Revival near the end of October.
“LPs are coming back in style,” says Sawchuk. “People are discovering the qualitative difference in the sound of an LP as compared to digital music or iPods.”
Now it’s not that Sawchuk, a past president of the Manitoba chapter of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association, has any plans to give up practising law after 25 years. He says he views law as a helping profession, particularly in criminal law cases. He notes that he has taken on a large number of legal aid over the years and values the relationships that he has established with his clients.
But one could describe Sawchuk as a free spirit — an individual with numerous other interests. For 16 years, for example, he filled much of his free time coaching local hockey teams.
And he has long been involved in music. While still at university, he played trumpet in a professional jazz band. While in law school, he learned to play guitar. And for the past 10 to 15 years, he has been the singer and lead guitarist for the band 59 Divide, which plays benefits and other bookings.
“We do about 10 gigs a year,” he says.
Sawchuk rediscovered the joys of vinyl last spring. He recalls that he had retired from coaching hockey and had time on his hands. He found some old records in the house and decided to play them on an old record player he still had. Impressed by what he heard, he began regularly listening to the LPs with his girlfriend, Loralie McKelvey, and collecting more.
“I started buying other people’s collections,” he says. “My collection had grown to about 1,000. Then in August, I made contact with a guy in Saskatoon who was selling his collection of 25,000 records. Loralie and her daughter and I rented an U-haul, drove to Saskatoon, and brought back all the records. That’s when I started thinking about opening a record store.”
But Vinyl Revival is more than just a record store. Sawchuk’s new enterprise also offers an open mic on Wednesdays and music lessons (guitar, bass, piano, vocals, and drums), in a rock band setting, with University of Manitoba faculty of music students as instructors.
Sawchuk reports that the response to his new venture has been tremendous.
“People who come in love the atmosphere here,” he says. “I am meeting a lot of talented musicians and I am enjoying jamming with them.
“The Beatles, the Stones, the Doors, and Led Zeppelin are among the records that are most in demand.”
Vinyl Revival doesn’t interfere with Sawchuk’s day job as the place is open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.
“The place almost runs by itself,” he says. “I may be the face of Vinyl Records, but my girlfriend and my son [Jordan] basically manage things.
“I have rediscovered what it is like to sit and relax and listen to records,” he says.